10/16/2003 11:00PM

Snow Dance tries going long in Dowager

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Snow Dance has had a terrific career in middle-distance turf races, winning several graded stakes and $938,597. But with no more than two races left in her career, trainer John T. Ward Jr. will try something different by running her Sunday in the $150,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile turf race at Keeneland.

"Three turns," said Ward. "I think she'll probably run real well. There just weren't a whole lot of opportunities left for her. She's shown her ability to go long and kind of relax now."

Snow Dance, a 5-year-old gray mare by Forest Wildcat, started her career as something of a speedy phenom when she won her first four turf races at 3, including two stakes. But as she has gotten older, her speed has become less conspicuous and her class has shone through. As for the Dowager distance, Ward believes Sonw Dance can handle it.

"This is pretty much a one-shot deal," said Ward, who trains Snow Dance for John Oxley. "After this, we're looking to turn her back to 1 1/8 miles [next month in the Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs]. Then we'll probably go on and retire her."

Ward said Snow Dance "blew her front left shoe at the start" of her last race, the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont on Sept. 27. "She ran around there with a bare foot the whole way, so that's a pretty legitimate excuse, I'd say."

Having drawn post 8 in a field of 10 fillies and mares, Snow Dance is likely to face her toughest challenge from Ocean Silk, a 3-year-old making her U.S. debut for owner Robert Sangster and trainer Pat Byrne. Previously based in England with John Gosden, Ocean Silk was good enough to finish second Islington in the Yorkshire Oaks in August.

"She comes highly recommended," said Byrne, who has won the Dowager a record three times (1996, 19997, 2000). "Hopefully she can live up to expectations."

The Dowager dates to 1992. Shane Sellers, who will ride Peacefally in the Sunday renewal, has ridden a record four winners (1995, '96, '97, '99) in the race.

The Dowager is the eighth of nine Sunday races on a card that also includes two allowances (races 6 and 7) and a 1 1/4-mile starter-allowance. First post is 1:15 p.m.